Beef Update: Weather improves & calving continues


This week - Libby Clarke purchased a pedigree SH heifer online; Jamie Hayes fenced land & spread fertiliser, while Joe Desmond focuses on finishing Wagyu.

Beef Update: Weather improves & calving continues

  • ADDED
  • 1 year ago

This week - Libby Clarke purchased a pedigree SH heifer online; Jamie Hayes fenced land & spread fertiliser, while Joe Desmond focuses on finishing Wagyu.

Name: Libby Clarke

Location: Magheralin

Enterprise: Suckler Farmer


Finally! It would seem that the weather has decided to take a turn for the better, and I can feel the pressure lift. Like so many farmers, this winter has been a challenge with silage short in supply and land so wet that slurry and manure could go nowhere.

So now the work begins! The last few days has seen great drying and just about all of my fields are now accessible for tractor work - so where to being?

I got soil analysis done earlier in the year and following on from this had confirmation that there is an imbalance in ph levels. To counteract this I bought granucal lime, and got it spread at the rate of 2 bags/acre. Ideally, this should have been on weeks ago, but better late than never... Manure is now spread, and if the rain stays away a proper start can be made to the slurry.

In amongst trying to catch up with jobs that are badly behind schedule, there are cows calving. This week sees Charolais and Beef Shorthorn calves hit the ground, all unassisted which is great. Usually, a few days after calves are born the outfits are turned out to grass, but this year I’m only now getting the first few trickled out to the field. Towards the end of the week, a fellow Shorthorn breeder was having an online sale of yearlings. I had picked a heifer some time ago and managed to buy her to bring a new cow family into the herd.

With the early calved cows remaining in the house longer than usual I decided to synchronise 10 of them and start an AI programme. Thankfully all showed good signs of heat. so it will be interesting to see how many of them hold. I used a new programme this time which didn’t use cidrs, just a combination of receptal and estrumate. All of the cows & heifers were also given an all-trace bolus 4-weeks-ago.

Next week - Looking ahead the forecast is not good with rain and cooler temperatures on their way. Here’s hoping they’re wrong!

Name: Jamie Hayes.

Age: 22-years-old.

Enterprise: Suckler cows and finishing all progeny.

Farm Details:

  • Suckler cows: 51
  • Cows calved: 50
  • Calves:51
  • Maiden heifers: 9
  • Yearlings: 41
  • 24 months: 32
  • Stock bulls: 2

What happened this week?

This week, the weather finally picked up and on Thursday we left everything out to grass on both farms. The calves were kept in as the nights were still cold and the cows also came back in for the night. With ground conditions finally drying up, we got a lot of fencing done on Saturday. 45-acres of ground between both farms was also closed up for silage and was spread with 23-2.5-5+S at 2 bags/acre. The cows are being fed hay and 1.5 kg nuts in the evening time when they come in by night. Calves are also on an 18% nut ad-lib.

Next Week?

Hopefully, all the stock will stay out and this will allow us to spread 1600 gallons/acre of watery slurry after grazing. More fencing and maintenance jobs must be done around the farm and also the rest of the fertiliser will be spread on the remainder of the grazing ground.

Farmer 3:

Joe Desmond - West Ireland Wagyu

Description: Cow and Calf to finishing farm

Animals: 30 head mostly percentage Wagyu F1 – F3.

Bull: 100% Fullblood registered Wagyu + AI

Location: 2 units in North Galway between Tuam and Mt Bellew

Unit 1 – heifer and calving unit – dry sheds & rough grazing

Unit 2 – trials and fattening pens plus Bull house; 3 bay slats and silage ground

The ideal method for finishing Wagyu is grain and high-fibre over an extended period. The high-fibre is best made up from barley or oat straw. In past years, this was an inexpensive way to produce expensive beef..Thankfully grain prices have remained steady for the last few months, so I’ve been able to carry on without the straw.

The reason straw and grain is the choice option is due to the marbling that the Wagyu produces. This diet is low in vitamins; vitamin A in particular. The body sees this as a dietary stress so it converts more of the feed into fat. This is not the back fat that we cut away; it is a fine intramuscular omega three rich fat that is full of oleic acid and will actually melt in your hand. The fat is delicately spread throughout the meat and puts value on Wagyu. It is marked by a BMS (Beef Marbling Score) of 1-9 for meat outside of Japan. A Holstein or Angus cow that has been bred to a Full-blood 100% Wagyu bull will produce a calf (F1) that should hit a BMS of 3-4 but some producers are exceeding this. A higher percentage animal has more potential to develop a more intense marbling of 5-6 and marble finesse is also improved. A BMS of 8 or 9 is rarely met outside of Japan but many are striving to hit this target.

So when you are a Wagyu producer, the first thing you need to do is get your head around the fact that you are not trying to pump weight onto the carcass in order to get paid; you are slowly and intentionally developing the animal’s carcass that will deliver prime cuts and a good marble score. Farmers will look at my stock and see “O” grade cattle with no backside and a thin, narrow head, but the Wagyu producer will focus on the shoulders and run the eye down three-quarters of the back to gauge how well developed the premium cuts are and the fullness of ribs. These cattle don’t put on weight quickly; I’d be very happy to hit 700 kg live weight and that’s after 300-days on the feed programme.

Ideally, I start with spring-born calves. - I hate calving on slats and the Wagyu is not a strong milker so I want plenty of grass on an upward trend to be available for both mother and calf. There is rarely any problem with calving and mine all calve out in the field unassisted and are up and sucking very quickly. I like to have them benefit from our Irish grass and I think this contributes to the overall health and development of an animal that may be kept for 28-months and up to 40-months in some programmes. Weaning is early, 4-6 months in the Japanese method. The Irish method takes advantage of our grazing, but getting them off grass and milk and into a programme before 12-months is essential.

The aim is to have them up to 300+ kg by the time they go into the finishing pens -the ideal gain is avg 1.5 kg a day. I start with straight rolled oats and only 1 kg per head to get them used to eating grain; this increases 1 kg per month and I slowly introduce other higher protein grain like maize; barley and wheat. I feed the grain in the morning. I like to see them clear the troughs in about 30-minutes and then I put out some straw (silage), maybe 40% of the overall. I’ll check on them in the early evening and I like to see 90% of the silage and all of the grain gone. I then fill up the troughs for their evening feed and I like to see it all gone in the morning. This year’s poor quality bought-in silage is holding them back a bit but they seem to be hitting 1kg a day.

Some finishers try and pump 7,8 even 10 kg of grain into them a day, but I would advise caution. Unless you are finishing 100% fullblood and know what you’re doing, you could be literally throwing money away. The conversion ratios I’m talking here are not my invention, but acquired from generations of Master Wagyu production in Japan with a keen eye for genetics; carcass development; and record taking. It depends on your bull and the amount of Wagyu percentage in the animal to tell you what weight to aim for and how long to keep it on the grain. The higher percentage animal will benefit from the matured carcass which is said to develop its marbling after 24 months and 32 to 36 months would see an improved carcass and marbling. Full-blood and Purebred (YES! there is a difference) should be brought to 50- days ration in order to maximise marbling. I have four steers on a 500-day programme and they should be ready this time next year.

Next week: Looking after the most important animal on the farm...yourself!

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